DETROIT — Marie Davis wants better medical insurance coverage. Jimmie Pleasant has been out of work for six months.
Both are among the thousands of people who are looking for jobs with Fiat Chrysler under a city program that gives Detroit’s residents first crack at the application process. It’s part of a $108 million land development deal between an automaker that’s building a massive new plant and a city where the unemployment rate is more than twice the national average.
Detroit officials hope the deal with Fiat Chrysler will mean residents have a better shot at good-paying jobs with the automaker, although Fiat Chrysler is obligated only to consider Detroit residents for the work before opening up the jobs to others. Fiat Chrysler is getting land and tax breaks to build in Detroit.
“I sat with FCA (Fiat Chrysler) and I said this: ‘I’m going to give you want you want,’” Mayor Mike Duggan said. “We clear the land and give it to them. I want a window where Detroiters apply for the jobs first. No one in this country has ever got the preference.”
Many cities have workforce development programs to prepare people for jobs and make them aware of available employment, but Detroit’s requirements that residents receive priority in job interviews and the application registration process are unique, said Tamara Atkinson, chief executive for the regional nonprofit Workforce Solutions Capital Area Workforce Board in Austin, Texas.
“I have not come across another city that is as intentional in how Detroit is using city incentives to prioritize a local hire campaign,” Atkinson said.
Detroit has made gains since its 2014 exit from the largest municipal bankruptcy in history, and its population seems to have stabilized at around 680,000 — less than half of the 1.8 million who lived there in the 1950s.